Astronomers spot 'Farout,' the most distant object in our solar system

The small, pink world officially named 2018 VG18 is over than three and a half times more distant from us than Pluto.

Artist concept of 2018 VG18 "Farout."
Roberto Molar Candanosa/Carnegie Institution for Science

Scientists have spotted the most distant object ever discovered in our solar system. Or to put it in Big Lebowski terms: "It's far out, man; far f%^#ing out."

In fact, the team of astronomers that first observed the object have nicknamed it "Farout," although it also carries the temporary and tedious official designation "2018 VG18."

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Farout's obvious moniker comes from the fact that it's over three and a half times more distant from us than Pluto. It's also more than 3.5 billion miles beyond the second-most-distant solar system object we know about, which is named Eris. 

"All that we currently know about 2018 VG18 is its extreme distance from the sun, its approximate diameter, and its color," explained co-discoverer David Tholen from the University of Hawaii in a release.  "Because 2018 VG18 is so distant, it orbits very slowly, likely taking more than 1,000 years to take one trip around the Sun."


Solar System distances to scale showing the newly discovered 2018 VG18, nicknamed "Farout," compared to other known Solar System objects. 

Roberto Molar Candanosa / Scott S. Sheppard / Carnegie Institution for Science.

While it is tough to confirm details at such a distance, the astronomers say its brightness suggests it's a spherical dwarf planet about 500 km (311 miles) wide, or roughly half the size of Ceres. Like many other icy objects in the far reaches of the solar system, it also looks to have a pinkish tint. 

The discovery comes as part of the same team's continuing effort to scour the edge of the solar system for an object that would be even more far out, in the sense of the term that made The Dude use it so often: a hidden Planet 9 or Planet X lurking in the cosmic darkness.

In October, the researchers announced the find of another distant object nicknamed The Goblin, which seemed to have an odd orbit that could be influenced by an unseen super-Earth-sized planet hanging out on the fringes of interstellar space. 

The team says it's still too early to know if Farout could also be influenced by the gravitational pull of a sneaky super-earth. If it is, then its nickname will become doubly appropriate. Until then, it simply abides. 

Originally published December 17, 2018. 

Updated January 15, 2018 at 4:35 p.m. PT to correct the distance between Eris and Farout. 

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